About Kirk

       1963 Laughlin AFB, Del Rio, TX in T-37    

I started my Air Force career at Del Rio Texas for pilot training.  I reported at Laughlin AFB on 17 Sep 1963 for Undergraduate Pilot Training Class 65XB, and admittedly I did not have a clue what UPT was about.  I got through it and graduated with my class despite spending three weeks over Christmas in the hospital with a bad case of sinusitis.  I even completed the course work early so I had 11 hours of formation flying just for the fun of it.  I graduated on 04 August 1963 with an Air Force aeronautical rating of PILOT.
After UPT everyone headed for Stead AFB at Reno, NV, for "Survival Training".  This was three weeks of fun and great food.

Actually it really was interesting.  We learned what to do if we had to get out of an airplane over "enemy territory".  This included a ten days of "academics", including learning how to disable a man with ones hands.  During that time we also made backpacks and clothing out of parachutes.   Then a week in the mountains in teams of 14, traveling 6 to 10 miles a day to meet "partisans".  And then three days as as a team of two traveling 11 miles over two nights with no lights of any kind.  And the last three days was in a simulated prisoner of war camp. 


Saigon 1966


During the tour at Saigon and the Vietnam War I was in the back seat as a PSO.  In this picture the front seater is Lt Col Bill Davies.  He was the squadrons operations officer.

Jan 1965 After survival training, a break for the Orono High School class of 1959 reunion, and a drive from Texas to Shaw AFB, SC for the real Air Force and the RF-4C.

I arrived at Shaw AFB, Sumter, South Carolina, the second week of September, 1964, right out of pilot training.  I reported to the 9th TRS (Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron), signed in, met people and then the squadron commander took me on a tour of the 363rd TRW (Wing).  At this time, all reconnaissance training was at Shaw AFB and because the three airplanes used, the RF-101, the RB-66 and the RB-57, had only a single pilot and there were no two seat trainers, all pilots assigned had to about seven to ten years of flying experience before being assigned to Shaw, so they were all senior captains or majors.  When we went into the Stan/Eval section (Standardization/Evaluation - the guys that test you) one of the pilots said "You don't see any of that here".  My escort asked "What's that?" and before anyone could answer, I replied "A Second Lieutenant pilot."

Yap, I was a 'brown bar' - a second lieutenant - having only graduated from pilot training on 04 August and only been in the Air Force just a year and a week. 

I was to be a "Pilot Systems Operator" in the RF-4C.  (The 'R' stands for Reconnaissance and the 'F' for fighter.)  The RF-4C was brand new and at this time, the third week of September 1964 there were no aircraft yet in the Air Force.  There were F-4Cs - the fighter version that could shoot missiles and drop bombs but they were also brand new having the first real F-4C arriving at McDill AFB (in Tampa Florida) in April 1963.  The instructors who were going to train us were at McDill being trained to fly the F-4C (and therefore the RF-4C).


Since the RF-4C was a brand new airplane, we had to learn how to fly it.  And that meant learning to operate the forward looking radar for navigating to targets were were to photograph.
The two pictures below are of the Forward Looking Radar Set.  Below is the control panel on the left console.  On the right is the radar scope.  This radar is designed for ground mapping unlike the radar in the F-4C which designed for detecting airplanes. All of the PSOs in the rear cockpit had just left pilot training.  We had never heard the word radar as used to navigate an airplane.  Now we were the radar navigators. 
Using ground mapping radar is all black magic and imagination.  Things that reflect radar, like buildings or mountains, appear as yellow while things like rivers or lakes or the back side of mountains are black. It takes a while to learn how to interpret the yellow and black splashes on the scope.  It takes a while longer to learn how to look at a map and predict what the radar image will look like as you approach a feature.  But we did become proficient as radar operators.
Our task of learning to use the radar was complicated by two things.  First, in the academic